2020 Summer Research Institute

Cultivating Prosocial Development Across the Lifespan: Contexts, Relationships, and Contemplative Practices

Important Update Concerning COVID-19:


In light of the most recent COVID-19 predictions, the Mind & Life Institute is moving our annual Summer Research Institute to an online format, allowing our accepted applicants to learn, engage, and connect digitally during the original dates of Monday, June 8–Saturday, June 13.


The Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (SRI) is a week-long immersive, residential program held annually at the Garrison Institute in New York. Unlike traditional academic conferences, this unique program provides opportunities for deep dialogue across disciplines as well as inquiry through first-person reflection and contemplative practice. Embodying the mission of Mind & Life, the SRI bridges science and contemplative wisdom to illuminate our shared humanity and inspire action. It moves away from hierarchies of knowledge to foster an integrative, richer, and fuller understanding of the mind and society, focusing on current issues that can eventually lead to positive action in the world.

Based on a process of inquiry and dialogue, the SRI is designed to foster collaborative research among diverse participants who have a stake in societal flourishing: scientists, humanities scholars, contemplative practitioners, social activists, and applied professionals.

The long-term objective is to advance the training of interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners interested in exploring the influence of contemplative practice on mind and behavior, brain function, and health, including the potential role of contemplative methods in shaping and enriching human experience and society. The program incorporates plenary lectures, panel discussions, breakout groups, poster presentations, networking opportunities, and daily contemplative time (meditation, yoga, tai chi, walking in nature, contemplative arts, and silent periods including two half-day “retreat” periods). The program also features daily affinity and interest groups where participants are able to come together in a safe space to discuss and find support around topics related to specific research interests and/or identity. With engaging faculty, a lovely retreat setting, and a rich and varied format, SRI sparks not only new ideas and collaborations, it fosters intellectual humility, a professional commitment to research aimed at a higher good, and a personal commitment to reflection and inquiry. Participants who attend the SRI as New Investigators become eligible to apply for the Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grants.

The goals of the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute are:

  • To create a meaningful learning exchange among scientists of mind and behavior, humanities scholars, contemplative practitioners, applied professionals, and changemakers. Such rich dialogue provides opportunities to spark new research ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations that explore the mind from an integrative perspective (including first-, second-, and third-person approaches) and the effects of contemplative practices, as well as the impacts of our social and physical environments, on mind, behavior, brain, and health.
  • To create a context for this dialogue that a) embodies a contemplative orientation through daily meditation and movement practice periods, contemplative arts-based sessions, and dedicated periods of silence; and b) fosters meaningful connections and group cohesiveness for safety in self-expression and diversity of views through structured and unstructured networking time, affinity and interest groups, and an end-of-week sharing and celebration.
  • To foster a new generation of nascent scientists and scholars (undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs), contemplative practitioners, and changemakers interested in innovative and interdisciplinary collaborative research.
  • To catalyze the field of contemplative research. This includes how contextual factors shape the mind, how contemplative practices engender effects on brain, mind, and behavior, and how these effects can support both individual and societal flourishing.
  • To train in emerging methods and best practices, examine future opportunities and challenges within contemplative research, and explore their application to improving social institutions and policies.

We gratefully acknowledge the Hershey Family Foundation for its generous, continued support of Mind & Life’s Summer Research Institute since the program’s inception in 2004.

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